One of the themes I keep running back to when looking at how the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster might line up for Opening Day, is that there are plenty of options to play in the outfield, but no standout prospects.
Whether that’s a good thing or not is still remained to be seen, but the fact remains that the Pirates have a good amount of depth when it comes to the outfield, and that trickles all the way down the system.
MLB Pipeline released their Top 30 prospects in the Pirates system on Wednesday and just like every list national outlets put out, there were quite a few surprises in it.
An initial thought on the list, they are really high on the outfield depth, with a total of seven pure outfielders ranked. Add in three players that played some outfield last year, but have primary position elsewhere, and another that is mentioned as potential move out there at some point in his career.
That’s a total of 11 players that could factor in the outfield picture at some point in the feature, out of the 30 total prospects ranked by MLB Pipeline.
The amount of names are thicker towards the backend of the list, which also includes maybe the most surprising inclusion, Matt Fraizer.
After being named the Pirates Minor League Player of the Year in 2021, Fraizer struggled to repeat his success in Double-A, and along with his age (25), it’s interesting to see him on there still.
Travis Swaggerty is the same age as Fraizer, but played all of last season in Triple-A outside of his very brief stint in the majors. He and Canaan Smith-Njigba are fighting for a roster spot this spring.
Hudson Head wraps up a trio of outfielders ranked together, coming in at 24. The results haven’t really translated too much, but he continues to flash the tools to be a successful baseball player.
The top ranked outfielder, Lonnie White Jr., hasn’t played much due to injuries, but has the raw skillset to catch up quickly. He could be joined by Shalin Polanco in Bradenton, and was MLB Pipeline’s pick to breakout in the system this year. Polanco was ranked 26th.
Ji-Hwan Bae (13) and Endy Rodriguez (2) both have experience in the outfield, and could see playing time there this year in Pittsburgh, but have other positions they play primarily.
The outfield isn’t usually one of the first positions of strengths that come up for the Pirates, but it’s the position that has the second most representation on the list. As they continue to look for a long-term solution at the position, there will be plenty of options for them to give an opportunity too.
Pirates Prospects Daily
By Tim Williams
**In my latest First Pitch, I explored the subject of POWER, in the first part of a series I’m writing to take a look at what the baseball tools actually are.
Spring Training Recap: Pirates 1, Orioles 1
Pirates DVR: Quinn Priester, Henry Davis HBP, Draft Prospects Shine
**Missed yesterday? Anthony wrote about the bullpen depth on display in the split squad games.
Song of the Day
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— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) March 4, 2023
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.
I don’t like out field depth one starter.
All I see there are a bunch of #4 and #5 outfielders on a good team’s depth chart. Hopefully that changes quickly considering the contract situation with Reynolds.
Maybe someone steps up but you’re probably right.
‘ The amount of names are thicker towards the backend of the list’
And therein lies the problem. Unless Gorski or TSwag realize their potentials, there are no needle movers.
Unfortunately I don’t share the enthusiasm for the OF prospects. There isn’t a sure-fire 50 among them, although the complex guys certainly have plenty of time to push their future values up. I don’t see any of Head, Gorski, Nolasco or Siani making it due to their dire swing and miss issues. Fraizer and Scott need to improve damage on contact.
When I think of an optimal 2025 Pirate outfield alignment, I’m honestly thinking of Swaggerty flanked by Oneil Cruz and some other positional nomad like Bae or Davis with Smith-Njigba as a 4th OF, unless he can get the ball in the air, in which case slot him in as a starter. And then cross your fingers that Polanco, White and/or Blanco turn into something.
It’s a lot of quantity, that’s I’ll give you.
I generally agree with this sentiment. They have quantity but desperately need some step ups on quality. I would add Suwinski as a 2025 strong side platoon option.
We all seem excited about Swags this spring and that is great. I do hesitate to separate him from the ‘pile’ of other options until we are closer to opening day. Defensively he has always been ahead of the pack but a good start this early in spring training doesn’t really reveal a lot on the offensive side.
I’m less enthusiastic about Swaggerty because of his spring bat than I am about the glove. He’s a true CF, which cannot be said for anyone else on the 40-man. To me, if the bat is only ok, he’s worth starting.
As for Suwinski, I think he’s fine for now but he’s most likely a platoon corner bat with a pretty exploitable hole in his swing. For all his power, he only managed a league average bat, which at a premium offensive position is less than you want. The metrics loved his glove, the scouts hate it, but I think as long as he stays out of CF he’s probably a second division starter, no more. If they mean to compete they have to upgrade.
The Pirates have one outfielder who can hit and they don’t want to pay him what he’s worth. Who runs an organization like that?
If you’re following the 20/40/60/80 rule for super-two, they’re paying him the equivalent of $22.5mm.
How two years at $13.5 mm is the equivalent of $22.5mm is beyond my feeble ability to add or subtract.
They paid the first two years of super two, 20% of $22.5mm is $4.5mm and 40% of $22.5mm is $9.0mm. That’s $13.5mm total.
This is an organization bereft of talent that refuses to spend the money necessary to compete. Perhaps I’ll accept your defense of their strategy when they belly up to the bar and worry more about wins and losses and less about Nickles profit margin.
I’m not defending their strategy, just relaying the numbers based on the arb discounts for super two players.
Personally, I think pegging his FA value at $22.5mm was a grave mistake by the FO and probably why there is a disconnect between player and team.
Garcia looked really bad, injured?
And guys like Tres Gonzlaez, R.Nolasco, Tony Blanco Jr, Braylon Bishop, R.Vilade, even Jauri Custodio and Emanuel Terrero not far behind(as far as prospects go). And I’m very interested to see Ewry Espinal stateside.
Raymond Mola would probably be towards the bottom of most teams top 30 list too. Being a highly rated International Signee.
Plus, guys like Connor Scott, Sammy Siani, Sergio Campana, and Jack Herman that have fallen out of favor in prospect land.
I’m predicting a big season by Tres Gonzalez. Alek Thomas comp. I think a healthy Jack Herman could be dangerous too.
And I wasn’t a big fan of Luke Brown but people keep saying his batting practices are legit. Line drives all over the field and a smooth lefty swing. The numbers are horrible but there could be something there. I’m not holding my breath but I guess we’ll see.
Swagg’s has aggressively pushed his name to the top of the list for No. 26. Less than 400 AB’s in AAA but 32 EBH (15/8/9), 55 RBI, and 20 of 25 SB. He also walked 57 times. Bae also provides the 5th OF possibility.
Question – Can this team leaving ST afford PT for both ‘Cutch and Connor Joe?
Has Bae played CF yet in ST?
Not that I’m aware of. Think it’s just been 2B so far
Not sure, but he played CF in 5 games and LF in one game for the Pirates when called up at the end of last season, and only played 2B in 4 games. He played 20 games in CF and another 8 in LF for AAA last year. I think they know what they have with Bae.